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Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe Resigns

Presicent Michel Martelly and PM Laurent Lamothe Presicent Michel Martelly and PM Laurent Lamothe
Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe on Sunday announced that he was resigning along with several ministers in the wake of violent anti-government protests and a commission’s call for him to step down.

"I am leaving the post of prime minister this evening with a feeling of accomplishment," Lamothe, 42, said during a televised speech, touting his government's "remarkable" record, which he said included reduced poverty and a 50 percent drop in crime.

President Michel Martelly said earlier he accepted the findings of the commission that had recommended Lamothe’s replacement.

Martelly appointed Lamothe as prime minister in 2012, and some political analysts believe Lamothe might seek the presidency in upcoming elections.

Lamothe’s resignation complicates the current political situation because nominations for a new prime minister require approval from Parliament and it is unclear whether someone would be nominated before Parliament is dissolved in January, said Michael Deibert, author of “Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.”

He noted that Lamothe was Martelly’s third nomination for prime minister during a drawn-out selection process.

“Without a functioning Parliament and without a prime minister, I’m afraid it could be a tumultuous time in January,” Deibert said in a telephone interview from Cap-Haitien.

He warned that political instability would undermine confidence in the government and the confidence that the international community has in Haiti in terms of investment.

“That’s not an image that Haiti wants to project to the world,” Deibert said.

violence-in-HaitiHaiti’s capital has endured a growing number of violent demonstrations in recent weeks during which protesters have demanded the holding of elections that were expected in 2011 and the resignations of Lamothe as well as Martelly.

Yesterday, one man was found dead in a protest in Port-Au-Prince during clashes with police who fired tear gas. It was not immediately clear how the man died, but he was shot at least once in the wrist.

Demonstrations also spread to other towns, including Gonaives and Cap-Haitien.

The unrest followed a demonstration Friday in which U.N. peacekeeping troops opened fire on a crowd that marched through Port-au-Prince, set tires on fire and skirmished with troops and police.

Martelly’s administration blamed the delay in holding elections on six opposition senators who contend legislation that would authorize the vote unfairly favors the government.

The commission set up to break the impasse recommended that Lamothe resign, along with the head of the Supreme Court and current members of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council. It also called for the release of several “political prisoners.”

Martelly said he would meet tomorrow with government officials to discuss the commission’s report.

Administration officials have insisted the government wants to hold the elections.

The terms of 10 senators expire in mid-January and Parliament will be dissolved, meaning Martelly would rule by decree.

In the meantime, Haiti's emboldened opposition welcomed the resignation Sunday of Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, who faced repeated calls to go over the failure to hold legislative elections in the past three years.

The increasingly unpopular Lamothe's resignation had been widely expected after President Michel Martelly said Friday that his cabinet chief was ready to leave "to help find a solution" to the Caribbean country's dragging political impasse.

But it remains to be seen whether Lamothe's decision to quit will have that effect, in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and one with a checkered history of dictatorship and violent protests.

If elections are not held before January 12, the legislature will be automatically dissolved and Martelly can rule by decree. His critics have warned he could send back Haiti to dictatorial rule and also are demanding that he resign.

A commission set up by the president has recommended forming a consensus government including opposition members, disbanding Haiti's electoral council and freeing political prisoners.

 

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